For a thursday night in Albany, New York, there sure was a good amount of rock and roll to be had. On Central Avenue in particular, where four small bands from New York state converged to bring a huge night of music. The End Men, from Brooklyn, kicked off their tour at their second home in Albany, before hitting the road for two solid weeks up and down the east coast.
The Low Beat has been bringing quality shows since it opened in February of this year. In the wake of Valentines closing, a staple venue in the Albany music scene, The Low Beat has filled that void, with the same ‘No Pepper’ adorning the stage and great beers and grub from the bar. (Check out our article on the iconic club closing it’s doors.)
Henry’s Rifle kicked off the night, with his one man talent barrage. John Pipino normally goes at it alone, with his trusty banjo and tambourine/stompbox suitcase combo bringing down and dirty roots rock to the stage. He was in good form, telling the crowd he was digging into some songs he normally doesn’t like to play, but was enjoying them anyway. A master at creating a singular atmosphere when he plays, it’s no wonder his new album (which will be released on Halloween of this year) is called “Barroom Weather”. With his huge, crooning voice sailing over the crowd, and his fast paced banjo strumming and later guitar picking, the show was given a proper send up from an act that needs to be experienced to be believed. Look for news on his CD release soon.
Next up was Charmboy, also from Albany. Both Henry’s Rifle and Charmboy are part of the ever growing Built4BBQ musician collective in Albany, which also includes The End Men as well. The traditional three piece of guitar, bass and drums is anything but, delivering high energy old school rock and roll in large helpings. They started their set with a massive psychedelic build up, which was kind of surprising considering the immediate rock set that followed. Easy parallels can be made to Elvis Costello and Television, but these guys bring some new vigor to that tried and true sound. Great sound from the board helped the crowd pick out the nuances like precision shuffle beat drums over screaming guitars, and a three part vocal attack. No nonsense rock and roll, as showcased by their originals and a great cover of “Heaven and Hell” by The Who.
The End Men played the third spot on the bill, and the bar was almost packed full at this point. When these guys come to town, the crowds continually get bigger and bigger, and soon we might not be seeing this band in the smaller clubs in the area. The awesome power of the sound this band produces is even more incredible when you realize they are, inherently, a two piece band. Matt Hendershot holds down a gritty blues rock guitar with searing, gravel dream vocals, while Livia Ranalli plays the meanest drums and percussion you have ever seen. Filling out the lineup for this tour is Matt Elia on tenor saxaphone, which brings an added warmth to the gritty rock and roll coming from the stage. At first listen, visions of Tom Waits, Jack White or Mark Lanegan might fill your mind, but The End Men deliver all that and more with their incredible vaudevillian, psycho circus rock and roll. Matt is engaging as frontman to this rag tag outfit, and definitely seems at home in front of a microphone. The vocal melodies between Matt and Liv resonate to your very depths, and draw you closer to the stage to sop up every last bit of musical juice they provide. This is what bands on the cusp of breaking into the big time look and feel like, so next time they come to this area, or an area near you, do not miss the chance to witness their raucous good time. They ended their set with a song called “The Wolves”, having epic trade offs between guitar and sax with the percussion keeping everything nailed to the floor.
Last of the night was Sun Voyager from NYC, and they put the perfect capstone on an already incredible rock show. Psychedelic with a hint of crazy riff rock, it was a little like watching the british invasion all over again. If you happened to walk into The Low Beat not knowing what you were in for, Sun Voyager would have convinced you that you were witnessing something prolific. Hints of The Black Angels and The 13th Floor Elevators permeate their sound, and their big sound washes over you with reckless abandon, showing the versatile sound that this club can handle. Another three piece band that blows you away with their talent and musicianship.
A final note: Touring is a tough business, and that statement hit harder than most for The End Men that night. Their tour vehicle lost it’s transmission two blocks from The Low Beat, right before the show. But because of Albany’s incredible music scene that boasts a true sense of comradery, this little band from Brooklyn was in good hands. The bartender got a mechanic on the phone immediately, friends and bandmates helped push their vehicle to the club. Our own Jim Gilbert offered up his van so that they could continue on their tour. Music isn’t just about the sounds that you create, it’s about the friendships and connections you make as well. No better place to experience that first hand then supporting your local music scene, and becoming part of that awesome collective yourself.